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Take action and cull early

Take action and cull early

DairyNZ advises farmers to dispose of known culls early.

“Feeding supplement to culls is expensive,” says DairyNZ farm systems specialist Phillipa Hedley. “If the known culls are disposed of early the rest of the herd is fed better and all of the extra feed goes to milk production and cow condition – not to maintenance as is the case with culls.”

The aim of dry summer management is to protect next season’s production and reproduction by getting all mixed age cows to body condition score (BCS) 5.0 and first and second calvers to BCS 5.5 by calving and having enough cows milking to match feed supply in the autumn.

On summer dry farms as soon as feed demand exceeds pasture growth the next season is in jeopardy as cow condition will be lost, especially the first calving cows in the herd.

“Often the option to increase feed supply is implemented before reducing cow demand,” says Phillipa. “However, the cheapest form of supplement is to dispose of known culls. Milking young and thin cows once a day (OAD) or 16 hour milking or drying-off these cows should also be considered before starting to feed supplement.”

For farms prone to summer dry, rarely does the farm grow sufficient pasture to meet both cow demand and pasture cover targets for the autumn. Even if there are periods of growth in January/February that exceed demand this growth is usually required to build up feed cover to meet future cow demand. For most farms (excluding irrigated and summer safe) milking 80-85% of peak cows from January onwards does not result in low pasture utilisation (wasted feed) or less milk production – in fact more milk is produced as less feed goes to cow maintenance.

“Body condition at calving of first and second calvers has a major impact on their reproductive performance,” says Phillipa. “These animals need to be BCS 5.5 at calving. Cows in their first lactation need to be preferentially treated (OAD or dried-off early) as they are still growing and research shows that heifers suffer more BCS loss in summer. Keeping culls only puts more pressure on these animals.”

Phillipa advises farmers to take action early. “In December calculate how many cows you can cull, making a conservative estimate of the number of empties. This will give you the number of cows you can cull for traits other than being late or empty – cull on Production Worth, repeat clinical mastitis cases (normally 3 strikes and culled), high somatic cell count, three teaters, temperament, udder conformation and age.”

For further information visit the Tight Management page on the DairyNZ website: www.dairynz.co.nz/tightmanagement

ENDS

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